Saturday, November 24, 2018

No need for a fake news law

I can understand the govt's wish to stop people from deliberately spreading lies through social media.

But I am afraid that the govt cannot tell the difference between a honest opinion, a honest mistake and deliberate lies.

I am also afraid that the govt will abuse the power given by the law to stop legitimate questions being asked about the conduct of the govt and its ministers.

There are some actions taken by the govt that are questionable, such as what is the salary of the CEO of Temasek Holdings, why is the salary kept secret, how much assets are owned by ministers and their families.

If these matters of public interest are not made transparent, some people will speculate about the matters.

Will the speculations, if unsubstantiated, be considered as deliberately spreading fake news?

Is the fake news law intended to stop people from raising these questions?

Even if some people spread information that turns out to be untrue, not many people will believe them anyway. How much harm will it cause?

If the govt acts with moral integrity, they should not be afraid that the citizens will believe the untruths that are being spread about them.

Most citizens will be able to disregard the untruths.

There is no need to have a law to stop fake news.

I am afraid that the fake news law will be abused by the govt. I speak against it.

Tan Kin Lian

Scoot lost business due to a badly designed app

I missed my JetStar flight because I arrived at the airport after the gate closed. I have to book for another flight.

Scoot has a flight that is scheduled one hour later. I wanted to book that flight.

However, the Scoot app did not allow me to login. It also did not remember my credit card.

I tried and found it too difficult.

I booked the JetStar flight at noon, a wait of 4 hours.

This is the cost to Scoot (subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) for having a badly designed app. They lost a business.

I wonder why SIA and its subsidiary continue to have an app that is not customer friendly. They lose a lot of business by being stubborn.


I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the new CEO of SMRT doing a good job so far?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
43 % - It will be another disaster for SMRT.
30 % - He is more in touch with what is happening on the ground.
25 % - The performance of SMRT did not improve after he took over. 
3 % - He is addressing the cultural and technical issues well.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Subsidy for cleaning and dishwashing

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

NEA will provide subsidy to stalls for cleaning and dishwashing cost 

Here are the responses: (46 Votes)
39 % - NEA should ensure that the costs are obtained through open competitive tender and charged fairly to stall holders, without a profit margin.
35 % - Let the stalls handle their own dishwashing.
17 % - NEA should set a fair rate for dishwashing cost, based on experience of many hawker centers.
9 % - This is a good measure.

See the pie chart at:

Progressive Wage System

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do you like the progressive wage system advocated by the govt?

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
58 % - It is a flawed system and is doomed to fail.
26 % - It is taking a long time to achieve results. Many years have been wasted already.
12 % - We can start with a few jobs and expand the scope to other jobs later.
5 % - It should produce better results than setting a minimum wage.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Article in States Times Review

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should PM Lee sue the States Times Review?

Here are the responses: (50 Votes)
34 % - He should sue in his personal capacity.
34 % - He should give a rebuttal and close the matter.
28 % - He should sue in his official capacity as prime minister.
4 % - The govt should block the STR for irresponsible reporting.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

WOTC - International profile

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

The ASEAN meetings in Singapore will improve our international profile.

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
80 % - The glory will only be for a short period. After that, back to normal.
13 % - I agree. It will be good for Singapore.
7 % - I am impressed with the visits by many prominent world leaders.
0 % - I trust that PM Lee will conduct the meetings well.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Centrist policies

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

PM Lee calls on new PAP leaders to adopt centrist policies

Here are the responses: (52 Votes)
56 % - He says one thing but does another thing.
29 % - He is not in touch with reality.
12 % - PAP's current policies are too far right and are not good for the people.
4 % - I agree with PM Lee's statement to adopt centrist policies.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Police investigation against the editor of The Online Citizen

I wish to give my comments on the action by the Police to call up the editor of The Online Citizen for questioning.

I understand that a report was submitted by the government agency responsible for monitoring the website. They had lodged a report of "criminal defamation".

I wonder how they come to the conclusion that the statement in the website could amount to "criminal defamation". I have read comments from some lawyers that this charge does not hold water.

I wonder if they had obtained legal advice from the Attorney General's Office?

Once the Police received such a report, they are duty bound to call up the complainee to get a statement from him.

But there is no need to seize his video recording or computer equipment. There is also no need to take several hours to get a statement.

The action of the Police seems to be excessive.

Several years ago, I have lodged two separate complaints against certain parties for alleged cheating of the public. In one case, I was a joint complainant. In another case, I was helping several parties to lodge the complaint. These cases that occured a year or two apart.

After investing each complaint for more than six months, the investigating officer told me that there were insufficient grounds to take action against the complainee. During this time, the complainants were not asked by the investigating officer to elaborate on our complaint and were not briefed about the progress of the investigation.

I asked the investigating officer if they had called the complainee to get a statement from him. I was shocked to be told that this was not done.

It seems now that the Police are more vigilant in acting on this complaint against the complainee.

I do not wish to be seen as scandalising the Police, but I feel that the Police should be seen as enforcing the law fairly.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Defamation action against States Times Review

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Why does PM Lee not started defamation action against State Times Review?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
86 % - He is worried that there are some truths in the allegations that may surface.
10 % - He has lost confidence due to many failures.
2 % - He has decided to stop suing people.
2 % - He is too busy with other matters.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Relation between Malaysia and Singapore

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore improve after Dr M's visit?

Here are the responses: (56 Votes)
52 % - Dr. M does not like Singapore, so relationship will always be difficult.
23 % - For the time being, until a new problem arises.
16 % - There is much to be gained by both sides through cooperation.
9 % - Quite likely.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hawker stalls required to operate 24 hours

I heard a radio interview about the social enterprise hawker centers.

One of the condition was that some stalls were required to operate 24 hours, as some of the residents said that they needed food after midnight.

This was crazy.

Sure, they needed food. But are there sufficient business to sustain the operation during the wee hours? It does cost the stall holders expenses to pay workers to work during these hours.

If there were roaring business, there is no need to make it a condition for the rental of the stall. The hawkers would know what to do to tap the business.

As it turned out, there were insufficient business, and the stall holders could not meet the conditions of the lease to operate 24 hours.

This condition had to be removed, after "feedback" from the hawkers.

I am surprised, really surprised, that this condition was imposed in the first place. I am surprised at the naivety of the minister and the officials in charge of this project.

What to do about people who need food after midnight? No problem. Open a package of instant noodles. That is what I do anyway.

I live in a private housing estate. The food outlets close at 10 pm. There is nobody to sell any food to me. Not even if I am prepared to pay two or three times of the normal price.

I also have the option to go to the nearby 24 hour convenience stall. They sell hot food at a higher price. They may not be as tasty as the food prepared at the hawker center, but a hungry person cannot expect too much.

If you want to know why the social enterprise hawker centers is a mess, look at the people running this project.

Tan Kin Lian

Logic of timing of pedestrian crossing

I take the pedestrian crossing near my home almost every day. Some times, the green man appears in half a minute, sometimes up to 2 minutes.

What is the logic?

Someone said that the timing is based on sensors that monitor the traffic flow.

If the logic works well, I would have observed it. But it does not.

Even if there is light traffic, it can take more than a minute for the green man to appear. Often, I decided to cross the road without the green man. It is quite safe.

If LTA wants to fine me for not observing the traffic regulation, they can wait for me at the pedestrian crossing before KLC International.

What is a better way to control the lights at the crossing?

Get the green man to appear 30 seconds after the button is pressed. It will provide sufficient time for the traffic to stop.

However, if the previous stop occurred less than 1 minute away, get the green man to appear in 1 minute. The pedestrians will understand.

What if there are many stops at the crossing that impede the flow of the cars?

It seldom happens, except for busy roads with many pedestrians.

What is the problem anyway? The cars are used to move slowly during the busy hours. It will not make any difference if the cars have to stop for pedestrians to cross.

How about giving the right of cross for pedestrians?

I have seen many instances where the cars are moving slowly due to road works, but the green man still takes a long time to appear.

I do not understand why a wide road needs to have two separate controls. The pedestrian has to wait up to two minutes to cross one half of the road and wait another long time to cross the other half.

Perhaps LTA thinks that some pedestrians are happy to remain in the middle of the road?

I used to have trust in the intelligence of the people running our govt agencies. Now, I have doubts.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - PAP central executive committee

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your view about the new lineup in the PAP central executive committee? 

Here are the responses: (60 Votes)
55 % - The PAP is preparing the ground for another Lee to appear as leader. 
30 % - The new leaders are more loyal and obedient. 
8 % - The PAP is discarding the experience and wisdom of their older leaders.
7 % - The PAP is making a bold move to bring in new and young leaders.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Meeting govt leaders

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it appropriate for PM Lee's wife to be involved in meetings with other govt leaders?

Here are the responses: (62 Votes)
66 % - She should not be involved, as she does not have any official position in the govt. 
23 % - It is appropriate only if the the spouse of the other govt leader is visiting us.
6 % - It will create uncertainty and confusion within our public service.
5 % - Yes. She is the wife of the PM.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, November 19, 2018

How to abolish GST

Someone asked me to explain how I can find replacement to the GST that I wish to abolish. I showed him the video of my speech about Budget 2018.

He said that it still does not explain how the lost revenue is to be replaced.

He argued that GST should not be abolished but should be reduced to 3%.

Here is my reply.

The main thrust of my speech is that we can do away with GST and still have a balanced budget by reducing the expenditure on infrastructure, which I consider to be excessive. We should also count the land sale as revenue, which is what Hong Kong has done.

If, after all of these actions are taken, there is still a revenue shortfall, we can increase the income tax rate on high income earners. I do not buy the reasoning that this will chase away the high income earners. Most of them (lawyers, doctors, corporate executives, ministers) earn their high salaries from Singapore.

I do not like to have a 3% GST, because the cost of administering GST is high. I do not agree that it can be solved by accounting software. There is still the recording of GST and the need to identify what is and is not subject to GST.

Weakness of a tender system

Singapore has relied on the tender system for several decades. It is believed to be the best way to get the best price for a work to be done. It is supposed to be open and transparent.

Sadly, this is not the case.

There are many ways that the tender system can be manipulated by the purchaser, who works for a large organization.

The purchaser can select the tenderers who work in collusion. One of the party will get the tender, and the price may be higher than market price based on an open tender.

Over the years, we have seen contractors that have made large fortunes. They know how to take the best advantage of the tender system. They build good relations with the purchaser.

We are not getting the best prices. We are actually paying a higher cost. The cost of our infrastructure and building is quite high, compared to other countries.

In some countries where corruption is quite common, it is usual to see the "ali baba" arrangement. The contract is awarded to a connected party who keeps a margin and get another party to do the actual work.

Many people may not realize that the "ali baba" arrangement is quite common in Singapore. We call it by a different name, i.e. outsourcing and sub-contracting. The effect is the same. The main contractor, who may be a connected party (or "crony"), keeps a big profit, but the actual work is done by somebody else.

Maybe, the main contractor add value by ensuring the quality of the work. But in some cases, their value added is questionable.

Is there an alternative to the tender system?

I suggest two alternatives:

a) We should have benchmark pricing for common types of work. There can be a benchmark price for 1 km of road or MRT line or one square meter of a building. While the actual price may vary according to the ground conditions, the benchmark price will set a guide. The quantity surveyor can be used to work out the benchmark price.

b) We should adopt a transparent system to show the actual prices of the work that is awarded. This allows independent parties, who have the expertise in the area, to comment on the prices. If the price is inflated, it can be seen clearly. This process also helps to improve the benchmark price to be used in the future.

It is risky to have blind faith in the tender system. We need to support it using benchmark pricing and transparency.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Market competition

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is market competition good for the economy?

Here are the responses: (61 Votes)
39 % - It improves efficiency and bring down cost.
28 % - The govt should not interfere with the market
23 % - Excessive competition can be harmful.
10 % - The market competition should be within parameters set by the govt.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - State Times Review

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How should the govt deal with the State Times Review website?

Here are the responses: (53 Votes)
55 % - Sue the owner of the website in court for defamation.
38 % - Ignore the misleading articles in the website.
6 % - Close down the website.
2 % - Block the website for refusing to take down the article.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

WOTC - Ombudsman

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should we introduce an ombudsman system in Singapore?

Here are the responses: (57 Votes)
47 % - It will be useful to address the complaints brought up by the ordinary people.
23 % - It has worked well in many countries.
18 % - It will be badly managed. and will not work well in Singapore
12 % - It will be difficult for businesses to operate, as many consumers will abuse the system.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Spilt PAP into two parties

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it good for PAP to split into two parties?

Here are the responses: (63 Votes)
52 % - It does not help as both parties will still pursue similar policies.
29 % - It will never happen.
11 % - It will help to improve democracy in Singapore. 
8 % - It will happen only if Lee HL encourages it. 

See the pie chart at:

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